Your List of 15 Greatest Indians in History

Aug 2017
169
USA
#81
Shankaracharya stalled the drift towards Buddhism ; which had gathered strength due to the conversion of Emperor Ashok to Buddhism. Shankaracharya reunited the two factions among the Hindu seers, those who were the monists being strengthened by his triumphs in the debates with the dualists. He was truly the renaissance man of Hinduism.
You're repeating the same thing without providing any evidence to support your claims. The fact is that Shankara's hagiographies were composed after the 14th century, which already poses a problem in separating fact from fiction. One of these hagiographies, the Shankara-digvijaya, depicts him traveling throughout the subcontinent, vigorously espousing his philosophical doctrines and defeating his adversaries in debates. Rather than blindly believing the narrative of this hagiography, you should be critically assessing the accuracy of the events depicted therein relative to other types of evidence. I again reiterate my earlier points that there were multiple other factors contributing to the success of Hinduism and the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in the early Medieval era. At the end of the day, multiple streams of evidence show it was the rise of numerous devotional sects (for Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva, etc) and their underlying bhakti ideology that won Hinduism in this era its popular appeal and patronage. This alone contributed significantly more to the decline in the number of lay adherents of Jainism and Buddhism as opposed esoteric philosophical debates between members of Indian intelligentsia.

Rajeev above mentioned the mathas allegedly established by Shankara. While there was likely some sort of contemporary organization for preserving and propagating his teachings, many historians argue these mathas were established several centuries later and were retroactively attributed to Shankara to aggrandize their prestige. For instance, the Shringeri matha was likely established in the 14th century in the Vijayanagara period and the Kanchi matha is similarly thought to have been established well after Shankara's lifetime. I do not have enough knowledge to address the other factors Rajeev mentioned but they should likewise be critically examined.

It should be noted I am not claiming it is impossible for Shankara to have affected the religious milieu of his time. Historians agree he certainly had some sort of impact, in much the same way that figures like Buddha or Mahavira did in Ancient India. However, we still critically assess the evidence regarding Shankara's life and the achievements attributed to him in much the same manner as is done for the Buddha and Mahavira.

Ultimately, he was certainly one of the more influential thinkers in Hindu thought and it is a matter of subjective preference whether or not you wish to include him in your list. I simply remain skeptical of the greatness conventionally accorded to him by Hindus.
 
Likes: World Focker
Apr 2019
406
India
#82
You're repeating the same thing without providing any evidence to support your claims. The fact is that Shankara's hagiographies were composed after the 14th century, which already poses a problem in separating fact from fiction. One of these hagiographies, the Shankara-digvijaya, depicts him traveling throughout the subcontinent, vigorously espousing his philosophical doctrines and defeating his adversaries in debates. Rather than blindly believing the narrative of this hagiography, you should be critically assessing the accuracy of the events depicted therein relative to other types of evidence. I again reiterate my earlier points that there were multiple other factors contributing to the success of Hinduism and the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in the early Medieval era. At the end of the day, multiple streams of evidence show it was the rise of numerous devotional sects (for Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva, etc) and their underlying bhakti ideology that won Hinduism in this era its popular appeal and patronage. This alone contributed significantly more to the decline in the number of lay adherents of Jainism and Buddhism as opposed esoteric philosophical debates between members of Indian intelligentsia.

Rajeev above mentioned the mathas allegedly established by Shankara. While there was likely some sort of contemporary organization for preserving and propagating his teachings, many historians argue these mathas were established several centuries later and were retroactively attributed to Shankara to aggrandize their prestige. For instance, the Shringeri matha was likely established in the 14th century in the Vijayanagara period and the Kanchi matha is similarly thought to have been established well after Shankara's lifetime. I do not have enough knowledge to address the other factors Rajeev mentioned but they should likewise be critically examined.

It should be noted I am not claiming it is impossible for Shankara to have affected the religious milieu of his time. Historians agree he certainly had some sort of impact, in much the same way that figures like Buddha or Mahavira did in Ancient India. However, we still critically assess the evidence regarding Shankara's life and the achievements attributed to him in much the same manner as is done for the Buddha and Mahavira.

Ultimately, he was certainly one of the more influential thinkers in Hindu thought and it is a matter of subjective preference whether or not you wish to include him in your list. I simply remain skeptical of the greatness conventionally accorded to him by Hindus.
I think it was greatness conferred to him by his followers. They dominate largest and oldest Hindu mathas and Dashnami ascetic orders form largest share of Hindu monks. So it's obvious that they will propagate his name. It has given common Hindus a perception that Shankaracharya has 'rescued' Hinduism from clutches of Buddhism. However Buddhism was already in steep decline till he came into the picture. It had less to do with "debates' and more with degeneration of later Buddhist monks coupled with loss of public favour.
But we have shoddy evidence of Shankaracharya's existence/victory. Though we can give his name credit for synthesis of various 'Hindu' sects.
 
Likes: EternalWay
Oct 2015
1,106
India
#83
Adi Shankara: Can be one of the greatest, but can't assert he "rescued" Hinduism:

Adi Shankara is one of the most influential saints in Hinduism. His long compositions were memorised by people who revered him passed on orally from generation to generation for several centuries.** This is reason enough to include him in a list of great Indians if someone so thinks.

However, can we assert that the Adi Shankara single-handedly "rescued" Hinduism from Buddhism? No. Hinduism was in revival mode long before Adi Shankara's birth in c.788 AD. And Buddhism was also in decline much before the saint's birth.

Historical details about his life were also not well documented during his lifetime and so not preserved. Then "fact" was dovetailed into "mythology". Even the year of his birth is debated, let alone date of birth. Or maybe we need more Indians to dive deep into available sources in temples to establish these details.

** This is a wonder. Will anyone care to remember any of my posts in this forum and pass it on orally for even two generations?
 
Oct 2015
1,106
India
#84
15 Greatest Indian Rulers

Oxford published a series of 28 books on 'Rulers of India' in which 29 rulers of India were covered. It was edited by and William Wilson Hunter and the first volume was published around 1891.

The series had 8 native kings, one Portuguese (Albuquerque), one French (Dupleix), and remaining 19 were British colonial rulers.

Here are the native rulers on whom books were published in the series:
  1. Ashoka,
  2. Babur,
  3. Akbar,
  4. Aurangzeb,
  5. Madhav Rao Scindia [1],
  6. Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan (both in one book),
  7. Ranjit Singh.
The series was perhaps meant to tell the readers (British civil servants) how to rule India. If we sanitize the list by removing 19th century views then:

Three Mughals:

Babar was a simple warrior-conqueror who ruled in India for 4 years only, so can be deleted. Aurangzeb ruled for about 50 years, but was a failure because his policies effectively ended Mughal Empire. In spite of his huge imperial army, he could not subdue the Pashtuns/Pathans of Afghanistan (1674-1676), the Rajputs (1679-1681), and the Marathas (1759-1707). His military failures get hidden behind the extent of his huge empire. So we are left with Akbar, who was the best among Muslim / Mughal rulers.

Nineteen British:

If one is forced to select a couple of rulers from 19 British guys, then the two people who had highest contribution to conquest of India were Lord Clive and Lord Wellesley.

Two other Europeans:

Albuquerque established Portuguese kingdom in India. It was territorially very small. Their most important influence is that they changed the Indian cuisine for all times to comes by introducing plant varieties from South America - Potatoes, Tomatoes, Red Chillies, and so on. There is no other significant impact of India.

Dupleix established the French kingdom in India. He / French lost out to British in struggle for power because French Government did not support them. Anyway, French were great help to Indians as they were the main source of European guns, cannon-balls, gun-powder etc. And also trained armies of native kings in European techniques - those of Nizam, Hyder/Tipu, Scindia, Holkars, Ranjit Singh. Some of the French even manned native armies. I think, the French delayed the British conquest of India by maybe 25-50 years.

However, neither of these two could be called 'greatest'

Hyder Ali & Tipu:

Hyder was a better ruler than Tipu. But their rules was too short - 38 years, both put together.

Whom to short-list from 29?

We are left with five: Ashoka, Akbar, Mahadaji Scindia, Ranjit Singh, Clive or Wellesley (one of two can be selected).

References:

[1] He is Mahadaji Shinde, the sixth Maharaja of Gwalior, who ruled from 1768 to 1794. The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II (r. 1760-1806) was effectively his deputy for many years. In 1772, Mahadaji brought back Shah Alam II and installed him on throne of Delhi, but a little after the throne slipped away from the latter. In 1788, Mahadaji captured Delhi, again seated Shah Alam -II on throne, and placed a regular Maratha garrison in Delhi. Thus Mahadaji / his son daulat Rao were the de-facto rulers of Mughal Empire for 15 year from 1788 till 1803 when he lost it to British in 2nd Anglo-Maratha War.

[2] Mahadaji Shinde
[3] Shah Alam II
[4] Rulers of India series
 
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Nov 2008
1,377
England
#85
f one is forced to select a couple of rulers from 19 British guys, then the two people who had highest contribution to conquest of India were Lord Clive and Lord Wellesley.
I think Charles Canning, last Governor-General and first Viceroy of India, really deserves to be on your list. His rule of India took place at an extremely difficult time and he conducted himself well both during and after the Great Mutiny.
 
Oct 2015
1,106
India
#86
Can you please rank-order the three - Lord Clive, Lord Wellesley, and Lord Canning.

Rulers identified as "great" by historians have all been great conquerors - Alexander the Great etc.. Clive got Bengal, the first major territorial possession of English EIC in India. It was also the richest province of India in terms of revenue and prosperity. Wellesley defeated the Marathas and made English the predominant political power in Indian subcontinent. Canning was more into defence - defending the Empire at a moment where it could have been lost.

Personally I like Mountstuart Elphinstone. But he declined Governor Generalship of India, prefering to complete his book on History of India, so misses the slot.
 
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Likes: NIROSHAN
Nov 2008
1,377
England
#87
Rulers identified as "great" by historians have all been great conquerors - Alexander the Great etc.. Clive got Bengal, the first major territorial possession of English EIC in India.
Great rulers need not be regarded as possessing greatness exclusively based on military merit. Would you not agree we me, Rajeev? Indeed, there are plenty of examples to choose from in history.
 
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